By John Smith (@John_Smith426)
In 2009, when selected 11th overall by the Nashville Predators, Ryan Ellis had very big expectations, even though he only stood roughly 5’9. Viewed as a prospect that would need time to grow and develop, Ellis would go back to junior after his draft year, and continue to dominate. Once a force for the Windsor Spitfires, as well as Canada’s world junior teams, Ellis would turn pro in the 2011-12 campaign.
Once Ellis turned pro, he had to grow his game as he was playing with men now instead of kids his own age. The young spry offensive defenceman we wanted Ellis to be would take some time. As tough as it is to develop defenceman at a young age, it was crucial that Nashville had the depth to let him grow his game. Ellis suited up for 32 NHL games that season scoring 11 points (3G, 8A).
Ryan Ellis wouldn’t become a key member of the Predators defense corps until 2013-14. Still developing, Ellis played in 80 NHL games that season, scoring 27 points (6G, 21A). However, it was his defensive play that turned the heads of coaches and fans. A big moment for Ellis that year, was the trade of Kevin Klein in exchange for Michael Del Zotto. This was crucial because previously the Predators defense was stacked on the right side, the trade was more of a nod that finally, Ellis was ready for the big lights. The Human Rocketship would go on to have very useful seasons under Peter Laviolette becoming a true top-4 defenceman in the NHL.
This brings us to now, in case you’re living in a hole, you would know that the Predators traded perennial All-Star, and captain of the franchise Shea Weber for PK Subban. This created a gap on the top-pair alongside the smooth skating Swiss army knife, Roman Josi. Ellis has thrived in that position all year long, and, in some cases has been our most reliable blueliner all season.
So what exactly is the ceiling for Mr. Ellis? Looking at some of the smaller defenceman of this era, my belief is that his most comparable player recently retired Dan Boyle. Both are similar in stature, and have had to learn to play a big man’s game with their undersized frame. Now, sure, there is things that Dan Boyle did better than Ellis and vice versa, but the they both have more in common than not.
So now that we know Ryan Ellis can be a top-notch defender in the NHL, and as he continues his ascending play, the future of the Nashville Predators defense corps appears in great shape with the likes of Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, PK Subban, and what would be my choice for our next captain, Ryan Ellis.